Two stories above me on the roof of the new Packard Lofts on Broadway, as I pedal pedal pedal at the Downtown Oakland "Y", a green and white flag fights with the rain and wind, wrapped around its flagpole, struggling to breathe free. This flag is supposed to be a rebuttal to the most famous Oaklander -- Gertrude Stein -- who supposedly said of this town, "There is no there there." Just as straight people normally misunderstand gay culture, that is NOT what at all she meant, and if you read her entire remark, you understand perfectly. Stein was born in a grandiose Victorian near 25th Avenue and 13th below what is now Highland Hospital. While she was an expatriate in Paris, the house burned to the basement. The majority of her family and friends had long since moved to Europe. The Great Earthquake destroyed the San Francisco she had known as a young person. So when she went to her beloved neighborhood of memory, there were none of the markers of land and experience that had constituted the world of her childhood and the basis of her memories of Oakland. She remarked on this, saying, "There is no there there!" It was a sadness and longing for homeland behind that remark, a cry of the heart that many know so well.
As I pedal pedal pedal along on my exercycle road to nowhere, I note the green and white banner has now shed enough of the rain it is soaked with, and has begun to free itself from the flagpole. I think about the way what women say is so often ignored, or twisted, major parts left out, the meaning distorted or totally misunderstood. For instance, what Virginia Woolf actually said was, "To write poetry and fiction, a woman must have 500 pounds a year and a room of her own with a lock on the door." To any woman involved in the creative process, each and every one of these elements is fundamental. But that lock on the door is invariably left out of the quotation, and quite often the money as well. But for Woolf, a victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her older brothers, nothing could have been more requisite to her creative process than the freedom provided by her own money and the means to prevent men from creeping up on her when she was writing (or sleeping).
The "There" flag has now freed itself from the post, and is attempting to fly, but still is stick wet to itself. And, pedal pedal pedal, speaking of distortion, omission, and dismissal of women, it is best not to get me started on the Oakland Black Panthers. But since you have Google, maybe you should check out the real Panthers who made the whole thing work (including writing the Manifesto), i.e., Dr. Angela Y. Davis, Elaine Brown, Kathleen Cleaver, Erika Huggins.... Oh, but this is another track for another day.
I have thought long and hard about what the hell is the problem with so-called straight people (many of whom are on the down-low) and gay people, and now I think I understand it. Discounting totally ignorant, bigoted, arrogant fools who are just frigging mean-spirited about anything not in their little narrow worlds (which only demonstrates that we make our own hells on earth), I think there's a huge huge huge misunderstanding about gay people among those straight folks who can't afford an expensive haircut, a catered wedding, don't work in the entertainment industry, and haven't got enough sense to get it that their favorite teachers, Ms. Eikenberry and Ms. Alexander, weren't just roommates. Are you ready? They just don't know us. They live beside us. We teach their children, write their books, sing their songs, connect their wireless service, fix their cars, bag their groceries, take pictures of their kids at graduation, and whatever else you got. But they don't know us. And even if they did, they still claim to have a problem. So I thought more. And watched the flag dry itself and unfurl.
I believe the majority of people who are against "gays" in this country have an image of us in their heads which has as little to do with who we really are and how we love as Foster Farms caged deformities have to do with free-range grass-fed Rosies.
I think there are a whole lot of folks out there who base their ideas about being gay on homosexual prison rape. And they equate the two. But here's the truth. That's like equating heterosexual rape with straight marriage. Prison rape and straight rape are about brutal power, like Bush kissing Barbra Streisand at the Kennedy Honors, when he knew bloody well she hates his guts, or giving the German Chancellor an uncalled for shoulder rub at the G-Eight Conference.
The majority of rapes, both in prison and out, are committed by straight men. (Have you noticed? Those dicks have taken over the airwaves, literally, and are apparently the most important parts of the American anatomy. [Maybe you've noticed as well -- those dicks apparently don't work. They need constant drugging to enlarge them, to make them "flow", to work at all.] In fact, over 80 percent of all sex crimes are perpetrated by straight men, okay?)Back to my point, now that the "There" flag is flying fully and freely over my recumbent exercycle in all its green and white glory: Gay love and gay life are as full of dance and song, light and life, loving touch, sweet notes left on the bathroom mirror in soap, remembered snatches of golden days, deep worry and concern for our loved ones as those of anyone (and of course we do it all with soooooooooooooooooooo much more style!). In fact, we have the same sorts of problems, as well. "Aren't you going to pay the rent this month? When are you getting a job, for chrissakes?" "Isn't it your turn to take out the compost?" "No, I don't want to go on some damn Olivia cruise. We need to paint the house this year!" "Could you please scrub your toes, damnit?" "No, I did the laundry last time, it's your turn." We don't force each other to have sex, we don't rape our children, we don't "recruit" straight people (who wants an amateur to practice on you?) And do I need to point out we're paying more taxes than the straight married folks?>
Chickens in cages in dark places stacked on top of each other are not healthy living things. Brutalized men crowded into prisons for years on drugs and bad food are not healthy living things. That they treat each other brutally doesn't make them gay. It does make them crazy. And uncivilized. Elephants in zoos are not health living things. (Separate issue. Men who screw farm animals are not gay, just for the record.)
How do I know we'll win? Because we will. Because the kids get it. The majority are not anti-gay, any more than they think Senator Obama's race was a reason to vote against him. They just try to figure out their own destiny, as individuals. Yes, there are vicious rapists among them, like the kids who nearly killed a lesbian woman in Richmond last night in a gang rape because they saw the rainbow flag on her car. (And I sincerely hope those boys rot in the hell of Pelican Bay.) But the vast majority of young people believe you should find your own sexual destiny, your own life partner, and move forward without judging other people. While there is a lot of honest struggle among the under-30s, they mostly are into live and let live. (What a concept.)
So just a question for anyone still reading this who is against gay marriage. Do you really honestly believe you have more of a right to be married in the United States than Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner? National treasures both, who've contributed enormously to whatever culture there is in this country, and together 30 years? Or Elton John and David Furnish? I mean, really. The almighty dick is not going to fall off if gay marriage is legalized in the United States. And it will happen. We have been here for millenia, and we will dance on the graves of those who live in hate. Trust me.Just a footnote. A hundred years after Gertrude Stein left Oakland for Europe, Oakland has the largest percentage of lesbian home ownership of any city in the United States. So if she and Alice came home now, I think they would have been most pleased with the there here now.